Do your leadership attitudes serve those you lead, or do you prefer to have them serve you instead? Is it all about you or more about empowering them?
Leaders Serve (Audio)
If you are a leader of others, irrespective of whether in business or politics or other organizations or initiatives, what is your preferred leadership attitude?
- To be served by those you lead?
- To serve those you lead?
What does that depend on? Is it circumstantial or is it always? How does it affect your comfort zone? How well does your ego allow that to be?
It’s an attitude, isn’t it? One of respect. One of collaboration. One of support. One of encouragement.
How many of you are led by authoritarian, “old school” leaders that have an attitude of:
“I employed you – you need to do as I say and you need to serve me”. They demand “servitude”, don’t they?
Conversely, how many of you are led by someone that has the attitude that they want to and can do whatever is necessary for you to be able to perform at your best, for you, for them, for the organization and for its clients and stakeholders? Big difference, isn’t it?
What are your leadership attitudes?
Leadership by people over other people is a topic that there is soooo much already written about. I believe it has never been and probably never will be an exact science and that it is so wonderfully coloured by the conditioning, experience and personal preferences of every person – leader or led. And that it works best when both parties want to collaborate to make it work.
I have found that whether a leader has been leading for a few months only or for a few years or a number of decades makes a significant difference in terms of what they have learned works for them (and others) and what doesn’t. However, how much of their style and behavioral preference is “inborn” and how much of it is learned and developed over time?
Inspired and empowered
Recently my friend and partner ran a leadership course for “tomorrow’s leaders” in a very large global organization. One of the outcomes was a limited circulation book written by these 8 candidates which they aptly called: “How we’ll do it”. In it they describe their experiences in situations with their leadership – good and bad and what they think (and know) works better (for them).
While this may also have something to do with generational differences, they certainly highlighted how much better they wanted to perform when inspired and empowered to lead the outcomes expected of them, rather than to “have to do” what the boss wanted (and often how the boss wanted or insisted it done too).
I have learned that expectations work both ways – for both the leader and the led and that a lot of the outcomes that are achieved depend on the awareness of each other’s’ expectations and how these are managed, as I wrote in Managing Expectations.
I further advocated a more empowering brand or style of leadership in what I wrote in Leading from Behind and whilst I am in no way advocating softness and abdication, in those articles I am suggesting that good leadership will “take their eyes off themselves” and put their eyes on those that will deliver the goods – those “in the field” executing the grand plans drafted in the Boardroom. Assertiveness can still be maintained but it is so much more encouraging than autocracy.
I found it quite ironic that where leaders have “ruled” their charges (thereby actually constraining them) the results have often been less impressive than where the leaders have empowered those to “have a go” and learn through experience. Why? Because they felt “valued” and inspired by the Trust and Respect their freedom to act granted and earned.
Of course this works both ways, as I wrote in Edification and Managing Up, where “talking the boss up” in front of (and behind) others works equally well to build and support the relationship that both want to encourage the other to have and do what it takes for them to win. I also learned how much easier it was to manage up and to edify when I worked for bosses that did what it took to support me to be successful (for them and for me).
Can you make Personalities work?
In Personality Plus… I described the 4 temperaments in a model often better known as DISC. It is particularly the “high-D” leader who is mainly extrovert and mainly task driven (as against the more introverted and more people oriented) who runs the risk of being more autocratic and less tolerant of leaving others to drive outcomes in “their own way”. I jokingly refer to the “high-D’s” mantra as “be reasonable – see it my way”. I teach my clients to be aware of where the people they lead (and are led by) sit in this model so that they are able to relate to their preferred behaviours and means of communication, so as to adapt their expectations or style to match or mirror those, thereby building stronger rapport (and freedom to act).
Now I am not suggesting that if you have an autocratic leadership style boss, you have to “give up and move on”. I am saying that with this awareness you can better practice managing up and win them over to trust you and allow you the freedom and empowerment to have a go. This is what I call part of the learning organization. But you know that for that to stick, you then have to deliver, don’t you – at least you have built up a track record that grows their confidence in you delivering what they expect?
What leadership attitudes prevail in your business?
I was in awe of how some individuals led global organizations of (hundreds of) thousands of independent distributors all over the world in the time I spent trying to build a multilevel marketing business. I learned so much from these people – ordinary people from all walks of life, many of which had never led others in business before. It was where I learned that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Their approach was that the more they could help us (their “downline”) succeed, the more they succeeded.
I also remember so well in 1992 when my team was in the final throes of a significant SAP software implementation, we were struggling with a very complex database problem. It was in the wee hours of the morning and irrespective of me not being able to add any technical input whatsoever, I was in with the team of technical specialists which included overseas experts nonetheless, in case I was able to leverage my rank for any (further overseas) support, given it was daytime in Germany. In phone contact through the night with my business friend and associate who had sold me the software, the best we could do in that situation was arrange that he find coffees and pizzas that time of the morning and bring it into our offices to join us in support. Not only did this blow our German colleagues away, but showed everyone that we were there to serve. It also helped cement our friendship and we have done business together for over 20 years now. Leaders serve.
So what if you were a leader and you took the trouble to find out how you could better “serve” those you lead to better equip them to chase down the goals you need them to chase down, for you, for them, for your company and for your clients and stakeholders?
What if it had them feel empowered and encouraged so that they much more enthusiastically go about what you want them to? What if it raised the bar for everyone? What if there was a buzz of atmosphere around the place? What if everyone enjoyed themselves more and had fun while kicking many more goals in the process? What if you could?
So what if you were led and the next time you had a performance review or just an opportunity to talk to the boss “one on one” and you were able to have him or her understand how by “serving” you better – that is equipping you and empowering you to act and kick goals – how much better you could perform? What if you did? And what if they did? And what if it worked? For you all?